The Pilgrim Hawk

The Pilgrim Hawk

A Love Story

Book - 2001
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This powerful short novel describes the events of a single afternoon. Alwyn Towers, an American expatriate and sometime novelist, is staying with a friend outside of Paris, when a well-heeled, itinerant Irish couple drops in-with Lucy, their trained hawk, a restless, sullen, disturbingly totemic presence. Lunch is prepared, drink flows. A masquerade, at once harrowing and farcical, begins. A work of classical elegance and concision,  The Pilgrim Hawk  stands with Faulkner's The Bear  as one of the finest American short novels: a beautifully crafted story that is also a poignant evocation of the implacable power of love.
Publisher: New York : New York Review Books, [2001]
ISBN: 9780940322561
Characteristics: xx, 108 p. ; 21 cm


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Mar 11, 2016

a well-told story working on several layers, especially when noting the focus of the subtitle (“A Love Story”) is secondary to the more subtle focus on the storyteller. The oh-so-obvious symbolism of the hawk pretty much works, although there are clumsy, heavy-handed uses at times. One of those references plays off the analogy between a captive hawk and a husband. While their natural state is freedom, they can be trained with patience, gentleness, and care. Both accept their captivity because their needs and appetites are provided for easier than if they were free. Both will bate, that is to attempt to fly away from captivity, but the straps that hold them in place will keep them in place. The lengthy discourses on falconry proved interesting despite the heavy-handed analogy, and additional interpretations emerge as the story progresses.

The more interesting part of the story comes from the narrator’s reflection of an earlier version of himself. While the story takes place one afternoon in 1928 or 1929 (the narrator can’t remember which), the narration occurs in the early 1940s. By the end of telling the story the narrator realizes he has abstracted all meaning from that afternoon, missing the reality behind the actions. An alternative subtitle could have been “A Portrait of the Artist as a Bitter Young Man (and a Jaded Old One)” as the older narrator analyzes the younger version of himself. As the article in Open Letters Monthly succinctly puts it, “Tower [the narrator] uses the tools of novel writing and undercuts them in the same breath.” His ruminations on love, and what we often mistake for love, could also be applied to life.

The book has gotten rave reviews, especially from other writers. I wasn't that captivated by it, but your mileage may vary.

Sep 25, 2014

Note: there is an actual hawk in this book. Introduction by Michael "The Hours" Cunningham.


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